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Word Build-up

January 1st, 2002 - 9:35 p.m.

I'm Currently Avoiding:

Okay, I have returned, and I am working on finishing this mega-entry in between typing a letter for my Grandfather and about five other things. However I have a lot of words of the day that I haven't deleted yet and so we're going to put all of those in one entry, and then a bit later tonight, I'm going to put up the other entry. Double the fun, double the reading. Aren't you happy?

Massive Amount of Word Build-up Due to Vacationing

syncretic (adj. sin-KREH-tik or sing-KREH-tik)

: characterized or brought about by the combination of

different forms of belief or practice

Syncretic has its roots in an ancient alliance. It's a descendant of the Greek word synkretismos, meaning federation of Cretan cities -- syn- means together, with, and Kret- means Cretan. The English word syncretic retains the idea of coalition, and appears in such contexts as syncretic religions, syncretic societies, and even syncretic music. Syncretic also has a specific application in linguistics, where it refers to a fusion of grammatical forms.

ineluctable (adj. ih-nih-LUK-tuh-bul)

: not to be avoided, changed, or resisted : inevitable

Like drama, wrestling was popular in ancient Greece and Rome. Wrestler, in Latin, is luctator, and to wrestle is luctari. Luctari also has extended senses -- to struggle, to strive, or to contend. Eluctari joined e- (ex-) with luctari, forming a verb meaning to struggle clear of. Ineluctabilis brought in the negative prefix in- to form an adjective describing that which cannot be escaped or avoided. English speakers borrowed the word as ineluctable around 1623. Another word that has its roots in luctari is reluctant. Reluctari means to struggle against -- hence someone who is reluctant resists or holds back.

neoteric (adj. nee-uh-TARE-ik)

: recent in origin : modern

An odd thing about neoteric is that this word for things that are modern and new is itself very old. It's been part of English since at least 1596, and its roots go back even further -- to ancient Greek. We adapted the word from Late Latin neotericus, which also means recent; neotericus comes from Greek neoterikos and ultimately from neos, meaning new or young. As old as its roots are, however, neoteric itself entered English later than its synonyms modern (which appeared earlier in the 16th century) and newfangled (which has been with us since the 14th century).

syllabub (n. SIH-luh-bub)

1 : a drink made by curdling milk or cream with an acid beverage (as wine or cider)

2 : a sweetened drink or topping made of milk or cream beaten with wine or liquor and sometimes further thickened with gelatin and served as a dessert

Syllabub's a concoction whose name once had almost as many variations as there are versions of how to make it -- solybubbe, sullabub, sullibib, sellibub, sallibube, sillie bube, sillybob, even sillibuck and sillybauk. Unfortunately, no one's figured out where the name came from (there's no connection to silly, as far as we know, though imbibing it might make one act that way). Both the name syllabub and the concoction itself go back to at least the 16th century. Today, we're more likely to encounter syllabub in a historical novel than on the menu at a local drinking spot, but the drink/dessert does get made occasionally -- and those fortunate enough to taste it often give it rave reviews.

balneology (n. bal-nee-AH-luh-jee)

: the science of the therapeutic use of baths

"Sure, the hot water feels good. Sure, the massage is nice. But it goes beyond that, advocates say." So wrote Ellen Creager in an article published on February 18, 2001 in the _Detroit Free Press_. The healing powers of mineral baths have long been touted by advocates like those mentioned by Creager. Though we've had the word balneology for just over 120 years, this method of treating aching muscles, joint pain, and skin ailments goes back to ancient times. Proponents of the science of bath therapy created the name balneology from Latin balneum (bath) and -logy (science). Today, some medical institutes in Europe have departments of balneology. Modern balneologists impart their knowledge to, or themselves serve as, balneotherapists, who apply their balneotherapy to grateful clients.

forfend (v. for-FEND)

1 : to ward off : prevent

2 : protect : preserve

"You certainly won't find me running a marathon, paddling the Volga, or, heaven forfend, singing opera," wrote _Boston Globe_ staff writer Scot Lehigh in the February 25, 2001 edition of that paper, using an old meaning of "forfend" in the process. English speakers have been using forfend with the meanings to forbid or to prevent since the late 14th century, but these days we only use the forbid sense when we use it, as Lehigh did, in the phrase heaven forfend. Forfend comes from for- (an old prefix meaning so as to involve prohibition, exclusion, omission, failure, neglect, or refusal) and Middle English fenden (a shorter variant of defenden, meaning to defend).

undertaker (n. un-der-TAY-ker)

1 : one that undertakes : one that takes the risk and management of business : entrepreneur

2 : one whose business is to prepare the dead for burial

You may wonder how the word undertaker made the transition from one who undertakes to one who makes a living in the funeral business. The latter meaning descends from the use of the word to mean one who takes on business responsibilities. In the 18th century, a funeral-undertaker was someone who undertook, or managed, a funeral business. There were many undertakers in those days, undertaking all sorts of businesses, but as time went on undertaker became specifically identified with the profession of burial. Today, funeral director is more commonly used, but undertaker still appears.

hackle (n. HAK-ul)

1 : one of the long feathers on the neck or back of a bird

2 plural : hairs (as on a dog's neck) that can be erected

3 plural : temper, dander

In its earliest uses in the 15th century, hackle denoted either a bird's neck plumage or an instrument used to comb out long fibers of flax, hemp, or jute. Apparently, some folks saw a resemblance between the neck feathers of domestic birds -- which, on a male, become erect when the bird is defensive -- and the prongs of the comb-like tool. In the 19th century, English speakers extended the word's use to both dogs and people. Like the bird's feathers, the erectile hairs on the back of a dog's neck stand up when the animal is agitated. With humans, use of the word hackles is usually figurative. When you raise someone's hackles, you make them angry or put them on the defensive.

Hmm...if it takes me more than an hour to do a simple copy and paste job while multi-tasking like this then you might be waiting awhile for me to finish that other entry. Seriously.



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